National Lampoon's Vacation (film series)

Directed by Harold Ramis (1)
Amy Heckerling (2)
Jeremiah Chechik (3)
Stephen Kessler (4)
John Francis Daley (5)
Jonathan Goldstein (5)
Produced by Matty Simmons (13)
John Hughes (3)
Jerry Weintraub (4)
David Dobkin (5)
Chris Bender (5)
Screenplay by John Hughes (13)
Robert Klane (2)
Elisa Bell (4)
John Francis Daley (5)
Jonathan Goldstein (5)
Based on National Lampoon magazine
Starring Chevy Chase
Beverly D'Angelo
(See below)
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
1983 – 2015
Country United States
Language English
Budget Total (5 films):
$113 million
Box office Total (5 films):

The National Lampoon's Vacation film series is a comedy film series initially based on John Hughes' short story "Vacation '58" that was originally published by National Lampoon magazine. The series is distributed by Warner Bros. and consists of seven films, two of which are not sponsored by National Lampoon. In recent years, the series has been the inspiration for various advertising campaigns featuring some of the original cast members. The series portrays the misadventures of the Griswold family, whose attempts to enjoy vacations and holidays are plagued with continual disasters and strangely embarrassing predicaments.



After the success of National Lampoon's Animal House in 1978, it was decided that another story from the National Lampoon magazine should be adapted into a film.[1] One of such stories chosen for development was John Hughes' "Vacation '58" that was originally published in the September 1979 issue of National Lampoon. Hughes wrote the screenplay for the first Vacation film as "a fairly straight adaptation of the short story," with the exception of the ending that was rewritten and reshot after being "thoroughly despised by preview audiences."[2] In addition to Hughes, Vacation involved the crew of many people connected to National Lampoon. The film was produced by Lampoon co-founder and Animal House producer, Matty Simmons, and directed by Lampoon alumnus and Animal House co-writer Harold Ramis.

Released on July 29, 1983, National Lampoon's Vacation proved to be a financial and critical success. Simmons went on to produce two sequels, with scripts by Hughes. While involved with the early stages of a third sequel, Vegas Vacation, Simmons resigned from production due to creative differences.[3] As a result, the film was made without the "National Lampoon" title.

During an interview on the TBS series Dinner and a Movie, Beverly D'Angelo revealed that due to the success of Animal House, the original Vacation was envisioned as a raunchier R-rated comedy targeting young adults.[4] This was principally the reason for nudity such as D'Angelo's shower scene and Chase's profanity-laced tirades and pool scene with Christie Brinkley. However, the movie's success with larger family audiences who identified with Chase's everyman-father character caught the filmmakers by surprise. As a result, subsequent sequels were toned down and family friendly, with PG-13 or PG ratings.


Just like John Belushi, who starred in Animal House, Chevy Chase had previously performed in the National Lampoon Radio Hour and in the stage show National Lampoon Lemmings, both of which were spin-offs from National Lampoon magazine.[5]

In each of the main films of the series, the Griswold children are portrayed by different actors. This is usually attributed to the fact that after Anthony Michael Hall declined to reprise his role in European Vacation in order to star in Weird Science, it was decided to recast both children.[6] Chase has indicated that it was his idea to continue recasting the children by explaining, "I always wanted to make the joke, 'Geez, I hardly ever get the chance to see the kids anymore. I hardly know who they are. We should go on a vacation.' That was funny to me: the idea that Clark was such a great family man, but still didn't even recognize his own children."[7]

Unproduced scripts

Shortly after making European Vacation, Chase and Eric Idle began to write a script for a follow up called National Lampoon's Australian Vacation.[8] According to Idle, "We spent some time working together on it. It had some nice shark gags, but I can't pretend it was in any way finished."[9] The concept of Australian Vacation resurfaced in the 90s as a potential fifth installment of the series, but nothing ever came of it.[10]

Prior to the confirmed plans of New Line Cinema rebooting the series, Chase made note that he has developed another sequel tentatively titled Swiss Family Griswold.[11] In 2011, Chase revealed that he and Beverly D'Angelo have been working on the idea. He explained, "There’s a cruise, there’s a fire on the ship, we think the whole ship’s on fire and we jump —- it’s just a little fire —- and we end up on an island where we meet Randy somewhere who’s been left there from an old Survivor series."[12]

Remake turned sequel

In 2010, it was announced by New Line Cinema (owned by Warner Bros., which released the previous films) that a new Vacation film was being produced.[13] The film, titled simply Vacation, was ultimately released on July 29, 2015, exactly 32 years after the original film was released into theaters.[14] It was produced by David Dobkin and written by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein.

The film is a direct sequel to the previous films (picking up years after the events of Vegas Vacation), starring Ed Helms as Rusty Griswold, as he takes his own family to Walley World.[15] Leslie Mann appeared as Audrey Griswold. Original series stars D'Angelo and Chase appeared in cameo roles.[16] The film also starred Chris Hemsworth, Charlie Day[17] and Christina Applegate.


Main series

National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)

National Lampoon's Vacation was directed by Harold Ramis and written by John Hughes. The film follows Clark and Ellen Griswold as they take their two children, Rusty and Audrey, on a cross-country trip from their home in Chicago, to the California theme park Walley World. Planned out by Clark, the trip begins to go awry after getting lost in St. Louis. From there, they make it to Coolidge, Kansas, where they spend the night at the home of Ellen's cousin, Catherine, and husband, Eddie. There they are forced to take their Aunt Edna and her dog to Phoenix, Arizona. Along the way to there, Clark accidentally drags the dog from the back of the car and Edna dies during a long day of driving. Dropping her body off at cousin Normy's house in Phoenix, they soon make it to Walley World only to find that it is closed.

National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985)

National Lampoon's European Vacation was directed by Amy Heckerling and written by John Hughes and Robert Klane. After becoming the winning family on a game show called "Pig In A Poke," the Griswolds win a two-week trip to Europe. The vacation begins in London, where they visit sights such as Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. Having trouble with driving on the left side of the road, Clark ends up in many accidents and unknowingly knocks down Stonehenge. From there they stop in France, where their camcorder gets stolen; in West Germany, where they spend the night at the home of strangers they mistake for their relatives; and in Italy, where they become involved with robbery and kidnapping.

This is the first of two Vacation films to not feature the Randy Quaid "Cousin Eddie" character. The second film is the 2015 Vacation.

In the opening "Pig in a Poke" sequence as well as the closing credits, the family's name is spelled as "Griswald" as opposed to "Griswold".

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation was directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik and written by John Hughes. The film follows Clark's attempt at delivering "the most fun-filled old-fashioned family Christmas ever." As the Griswolds' dysfunctional relatives begin arriving early, he becomes obsessed with ensuring that everything goes right. Meanwhile, he is also expecting a large Christmas bonus check that will cover a surprise backyard swimming pool that he already ordered. However, when the Christmas bonuses are cut, he instead receives a one-year membership to the Jelly of the Month Club, causing him to snap and go crazy.

Vegas Vacation (1997)
Main article: Vegas Vacation

Vegas Vacation was directed by Stephen Kessler and written by Elisa Bell, based on a story by Bell and Bob Ducsay. After receiving a large bonus check, Clark takes his family on vacation to Las Vegas. Immediately hitting the blackjack tables, he begins to blow all his money, resulting in them breaking off in their own directions. While he tries to regain his money through the help of his cousin-in-law, Eddie, Ellen becomes infatuated with Wayne Newton as Rusty wins big at the dice tables and Audrey turns to go-go dancing with her cousin, Vicki. The film is notable for being the first (and to date, only) installment to receive a PG rating from the MPAA. However, it is erroneously rated PG-13 on subsequent home media releases.

Vacation (2015)
Main article: Vacation (2015 film)

Vacation is a 2015 theatrical installment of the series written and directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. Following in Clark's footsteps, a grown-up Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) surprises his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), and their two sons, James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins), with a cross-country road trip back to Walley World, in an effort to recreate the family vacations he had with his parents and sister (Leslie Mann).[18] It is the first entry since the original to receive an R rating.

Other films

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure (2003)

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure is a made-for-TV spin-off film directed by Nick Marck and written by Matty Simmons. After a workplace accident involving a monkey, Eddie Johnson is given a free vacation for him and his family to an island in the South Pacific. But when he tries to catch a shark during a family boat trip, they become lost and eventually shipwrecked on an isolated island.

It can be considered a sequel to National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, although it is more of a spin-off than a direct chapter in the Vacation series, because Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo do not appear. It stars Randy Quaid and Miriam Flynn, reprising their roles as Cousin Eddie and Catherine, with Dana Barron returning as Audrey Griswold.

Hotel Hell Vacation (2010)
Main article: Hotel Hell Vacation

Hotel Hell Vacation is a short film directed by Bryan Buckley. On their way to visit Rusty and his family at a vacation rental, Clark and Ellen decide to have a romantic getaway at a hotel before they get there. Everything, however, goes wrong there for them and they hastily make their way to Rusty's rental.

The film was a campaign ad for HomeAway that originally aired in part during the broadcast of Super Bowl XLIV and in entirety on[19] While it was sanctioned by Warner Bros., it was not sponsored by the National Lampoon label.

Continuity and recurring elements

The Griswold children

Aside from the obvious issues with the characters' physical appearances due to being played by different actors, Rusty and Audrey both age on a floating timeline. It is assumed that each film takes place in the year they are actually filmed, as no other indication of time is mentioned and the characters' clothing, cars, and environment are contemporary to the time of each films' releases. In most of the films it is never mentioned which of the two children is older. Rusty and Audrey appear to be in their early teens in Vacation (1983), and in their mid-teens in European Vacation (1985) two years later (at one point in the film, he specifically mentions that he is fifteen years old). However, in Christmas Vacation (1989), while she appears to be in her late teens, he looks younger than he did in the preceding films. Whereas in Vegas Vacation (1997), both are in their late teens to which Clark tells the kids, "I hardly recognize you anymore!" The next shot freezes for a moment on the kids sitting silently, making fun of the discontinuity.

Dana Barron, who was then in her late thirties, reprised the role of Audrey in Christmas Vacation 2 (2003). Rusty is also portrayed as an adult with a wife and daughter in Hotel Hell Vacation (2010). However, in Vacation (2015), Rusty is portrayed by Ed Helms and has two sons with no mention of a daughter.

Eddie and Catherine Johnson

Eddie and Catherine are seen with the following children in their respective films: Vicky, Dale, Daisy Mable, Eddie Jr, and Junior (Vacation); Rocky and Ruby Sue (Christmas Vacation); Denny (Vegas Vacation); and Clark "Third" Johnson — the namesake of Clark Griswold (Christmas Vacation 2). In addition to those seen, several others are mentioned or alluded to throughout the series. While the Johnsons do not appear in the 2015 Vacation, Eddie is briefly mentioned.

Walley World

Walley World is mentioned in subsequent films following Vacation:

Clark's tirades

Clark is usually very easy-going and optimistic, even in the face of adversity and his family's seeming lack of appreciation for his efforts on their behalf. However, when he is pushed beyond the limit of his patience, he tends to lose his temper and go on furious tirades, as seen in the first Vacation, where he scolds his family for not wanting to continue the trip. He also loses his temper in Christmas Vacation where he gets angry at his relatives because of their wanting to leave, and went into a tirade against his boss.

The Girl in the Red Ferrari

In the first Vacation film, Clark sees a golden-haired beauty driving a red Ferrari played by model and actress Christie Brinkley. Clark later encounters her at a hotel, with her attempts to seduce him resulting in an embarrassing failure on his behalf. In Vegas Vacation, Clark once again drives alongside the same woman, reprised by Christie Brinkley, asking "remember me?" After she responds that she does, Clark spots a baby in the backseat of her car, clearly indicating she's now a mom and possibly married - much to Clark's disappointment.

A new girl in a red Ferrari played by model Hannah Davis appears in the 2015 Vacation. This time, while driving down the highway, the girl pulls alongside Rusty and makes flirtatious gestures at him before swerving into the other lane, being hit head on and killed by a tractor trailer.[20]

Cast and crew


Character Film TV Film Short Film
National Lampoon's Vacation National Lampoon's European Vacation National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Vegas Vacation Vacation Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure Hotel Hell Vacation
The Griswolds
Clark W. Griswold Jr. Chevy Chase Chevy Chase
Ellen Griswold Beverly D'Angelo Beverly D'Angelo
Russell "Rusty" Griswold Anthony Michael Hall Jason Lively Johnny Galecki Ethan Embry Ed Helms Travis Greer
Audrey Griswold Dana Barron Dana Hill Juliette Lewis Marisol Nichols Leslie Mann Dana Barron
Debbie Griswold Christina Applegate Alina Phelan
Stone Crandall Chris Hemsworth
James Griswold Skyler Gisondo
Kevin Griswold Steele Stebbins
The Johnsons
Edward "Eddie" Johnson Randy Quaid Randy Quaid Randy Quaid
Catherine Johnson Miriam Flynn Miriam Flynn Miriam Flynn
Cousin Vicki Jane Krakowski Shae D'Lyn
Cousin Dale John P. Navin Jr.
Cousin Daisy Mabel Violet Ramis
Cousin Ruby Sue Ellen Hamilton Latzen Juliette Brewer
Cousin Rocky Cody Burger
Cousin Denny Zach Moyes
Cousin Clark "Third" Johnson Jake Thomas


Crew/Detail Film
Vacation European Vacation Christmas Vacation Vegas Vacation Vacation (2015)
Director Harold Ramis Amy Heckerling Jeremiah Chechik Stephen Kessler John Francis Daley
Jonathan Goldstein
Writer(s) John Hughes John Hughes
Robert Klane
John Hughes Elisa Bell John Francis Daley
Jonathan Goldstein
Producer(s) Matty Simmons John Hughes
Tom Jacobson
Jerry Weintraub David Dobkin
Chris Bender
Composer Ralph Burns Charles Fox Angelo Badalamenti Joel McNeely Mark Mothersbaugh
Cinematographer Victor J. Kemper Robert Paynter Thomas E. Ackerman William A. Fraker Barry Peterson
Editor Pembroke J. Herring Jerry Greenberg
Michael A. Stevenson
Seth Flaum Jamie Gross
Running time 98 minutes 94 minutes 97 minutes 93 minutes 99 minutes


Box office

When released in 1983, National Lampoon's Vacation was a significant box-office hit. The film earned over $61 million in the United States with an estimated budget of $15 million.

Without being adjusted for inflation, the profit earned by the individual Vacation films follow behind National Lampoon's Animal House as the highest-grossing films of the National Lampoon brand.[21]

Film Release date Box office revenue Budget Reference
Domestic Foreign Worldwide
National Lampoon's Vacation July 29, 1983 $61,399,552 $61,399,552 $15,000,000 [22]
National Lampoon's European Vacation July 26, 1985 $49,364,621 $49,364,621 $15,000,000 [23]
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation December 1, 1989 $71,319,526 $71,319,526 $27,000,000 [24]
Vegas Vacation February 14, 1997 $36,400,360 $36,400,360 $25,000,000 [25]
Vacation July 29, 2015 $58,884,188 $45,200,000 $104,084,188 $31 million [26]
Total $273,504,059 $26,500,000 $299,743,059 $113 million

Critical response

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
National Lampoon's Vacation 93% (43 reviews)[27] 60 (6 reviews)[28]
National Lampoon's European Vacation 39% (23 reviews)[29]
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 64% (36 reviews)[30]
Vegas Vacation 13% (30 reviews)[31] 20 (10 reviews)[32]
Vacation 28% (115 reviews)[33] 33 (31 reviews)[34]


In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted National Lampoon's Vacation as the 46th greatest comedy film of all time. The film was also nominated for AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs list in 2000.[35] Christmas Vacation has additionally become a television staple, especially during the holiday season, as it has often been labeled as a contemporary Christmas classic.[36][37][38]

Appearance in popular culture

In the Family Guy episode "Blue Harvest", the Griswold Family is seen driving past the Death Star during the battle at the end. In another episode of Family Guy, there is a scene where a woman is driving next to Peter and gets hit by a truck, which mimicks the Christie Brinkley car scene from the first Vacation.

In 2008, Christie Brinkley spoofed her role as "The girl in the red Ferrari" in a DirecTV commercial that recreated the swimming pool scene from Vacation by inter-splicing footage from the original film.[39]

In November and December 2012, series regulars Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo were featured in a set of commercials for Old Navy. Joining them in one commercial were Juliette Lewis (from Christmas Vacation), Dana Barron and Anthony Michael Hall (from Vacation), and Jason Lively (from European Vacation); that spot featured three Rustys and three Audreys (including a "new Rusty" and a "new Audrey," both of whom were children).[40]

On December 25, 2014, in Clark, NJ, a prankster altered the Garden State Parkway Exit 135 sign for "Clark and Westfield" to read "Clark Griswold," making national news headlines.[41]

In 2015, Christie Brinkley stars as the mom in an Infiniti QX60 TV spot and comments about another blonde beauty driving by in a red convertible. Ethan Embry, who played Rusty in the 1997 Vegas Vacation, plays the dad.[42]

See also


  1. "An Interview with National Lampoon CEO Daniel Laikin". Seeking Alpha. July 28, 2008. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  2. Hughes, John. "Vacation '58 / Foreword '08". American Zoetrope. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  3. Patrizio, Andy (October 31, 2003). "An Interview with Matty Simmons". News Corporation. IGN. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
  4. Gurwitch, Annabelle (August 6, 1999). "Time for a Vacation!". TBS Superstation, Inc. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  5. Evans, Bradford (April 10, 2012). "Talking to Matty Simmons About Producing Animal House, Publishing National Lampoon, and His New Book Fat, Drunk, and Stupid". Splitsider. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  6. Michael Yo, Dana Barron (2013). Michael Yo interviews Dana Barron about Vacation. The Yo Show. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  7. Jones, Nate (November 18, 2010). "Q&A: Chevy Chase on Community and How to Fix SNL". Time. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  8. Robert Ross (1997). Monty Python Encyclopedia. TV Books. p. 192. ISBN 1575000369.
  9. Kim Johnson (1993). Life Before and After Monty Python: The Solo Flights of the Flying Circus. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0312086954.
  10. Evans, Bradford (September 22, 2011). "The Lost Roles of Chevy Chase". Splitsider. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  11. Ravitz, Justin (June 3, 2007). "Actor Chevy Chase Has New 'Vacation' Movie Idea". New York. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  12. Weintraub, Steve (August 24, 2011). "Chevy Chase Talks VACATION Reboot and FLETCH, Says He's Written a Script for New VACATION". Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  13. Siegel, Tatiana (February 10, 2010). "New Line ready for another 'Vacation'". Variety. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  14. McNary, Dave (July 29, 2015). "Box Office: 'Vacation' Hits Road With $1.2 Million on Tuesday". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  15. "Ed Helms to Play Rusty Griswold in New Vacation". Variety. July 11, 2012. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  16. "Chris Hemsworth & Charlie Day Taking a 'Vacation' with Ed Helms".
  17. "A New Vacation (Movie) Begins Today, Synopsis Revealed". Den of Geek. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
  18. "Exclusive: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo to Reprise Vacation Roles". Us Weekly. November 18, 2009. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
  20. "National Lampoon Movies at the Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  21. "National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  22. "National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  23. "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  24. "Vegas Vacation (1997)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  25. "Vacation (2015)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 11, 2015.
  26. "National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  27. "National Lampoon's Vacation Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  28. "National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  29. "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  30. "Vegas Vacation (1997)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  31. "Vegas Vacation: Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  32. "Vacation (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  33. "Vacation Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  34. "America's Funniest Movies" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  35. "Yule Love 'Em". Entertainment Weekly. November 29, 2004. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  36. Durrett, Mike. "Top 10 Christmas and New Year's Comedy Movies". Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  37. Leo, Alex (December 16, 2012). "The 10 Funniest Christmas Movies Of All Time". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  38. "Christie Brinkley DirecTV Commercial "National Lampoon's" Swimming Pool Scene". Pop Crunch. Aven Enterprises LLC. May 19, 2008. Archived from the original on June 3, 2008. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  39. Barrett, Annie (December 11, 2012). "Chevy Chase shops at Old Navy and you... do, too". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Archived from the original on August 12, 2015. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  40. Remo, Jessica (December 26, 2014). "Exit 135: Clark Griswold? Tricksters change Clark / Westfield sign on Garden State Parkway". Advance Publications. Archived from the original on January 10, 2015. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  41. "Infiniti Takes 'Vacation' With QX60 And Christie Brinkley". July 8, 2015.

External links

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